Price-Fixed Electronic Throttle Bodies Sold to Nissan Motor Co. and Subsidiaries
the Department of Justice announced that Aisan Industry Co., Ltd., an Obu, Japan-based company, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a criminal fine of US$6.86 million for its role in a price-fixing conspiracy involving electronic throttle bodies sold in the United States and elsewhere.
According to a one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Aisan engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of electronic throttle bodies sold to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and certain of its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. In addition to the criminal fine, Aisan has also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing auto parts investigations of the department. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“The Antitrust Division will continue to hold companies accountable for anti-competitive conduct that impacts the automobile industry in the United States,” said Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division criminal enforcement program. “To date, 25 companies have been charged as part of the Antitrust Division ongoing auto parts investigation.” Aisan and its co-conspirators carried out the price-fixing conspiracy through meetings and conversations in which they discussed and agreed upon bids and price quotations for electronic throttle bodies. Aisan involvement in the conspiracy to fix prices of electronic throttle bodies lasted from at least as early as October 2003, until at least February 2010.
Aisan manufactures and sells automotive electronic throttle bodies, which are part of the air intake system in an engine that controls the amount of air flowing into the engine combustion chamber. By controlling air flow within an engine, the electronic throttle body controls engine speed.
Including Aisan, 25 corporations have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry. The companies have agreed to pay a total of more than US$1.8 billion in fines. Additionally, 28 individuals have been charged.
Aisan is charged with price-fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a US$100 million criminal fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price-fixing, bid-rigging, and other anti-competitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by each of the Antitrust Division criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.
The charges were brought by the San Francisco Office of the Antitrust Division with assistance provided by the National Criminal Enforcement Section of the Antitrust Division, the Detroit Field Office of the FBI, and FBI Headquarters’ International Corruption Unit. Anyone with information concerning this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, or call the Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 1-313-965-2323.